Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Agnes Woods Darke

Jerbo thought a gate would look like a gate,
Not like a pinhole in his old work shirt.

He sat one afternoon as the fog rose
In layers and curls from the surf-carved rocks.

A little conversation would be nice,
He thought, rolling down his cuffs in the damp,

But only a little. He liked his thoughts
Better than his talk, better than the talk

Of others, who mostly liked their own thoughts,
As any conversation could tell him.

High tide. He squinted down at the seal pups
Washed on the rocks, yipping like coyotes

To his ears, and looking fat, black, and sleek
As leeches on the sands. Tricksters, he thought,

Selkies. And just ordinary mammals
As trapped in their world as he was in his.

He picked at his sleeve and frowned at the rip
Now big enough for someone to notice.

He should have left it well enough alone.
He was not the sort to sew up a shirt.

The hole looked black as a seal pup's slicked back
Against what should be his ghostly pale skin.

He tried to lift the sleeve to look under.
White skin littered with fine hair and freckles.

He rolled the sleeve back down. The hole had grown
To the size of a ragged dime. Still black.

He stared away into the spray gouting
Up from the eroding rocks below him.

He was, he considered, bemused and bored
Even in his own dreams. Or it could be

He was awake and hallucinating.
Why would someone be bored and indifferent

During a dream or hallucination?
The hole in his shirt sleeve was still growing,

A grimacing oh of a toothless mouth.
He looked into it, still on his forearm

And it was like looking into a well
In a cave at midnight for a black fish.

Dizzy, he drew back. He glanced around him.
Solid world, steady streams of sensation,

Views of the ocean, the uncurling fog,
The curling spray, the bleating of seal pups,

Pulsing surf, raucous gulfs, pine and salt smells
The rumpled resistance still resisting

Any effort of thoughts to revise it.
His arm, now he looked back down, was almost

Gone. A black gap, solidly dark but deep,
Starless, without glimmer or reflection,

Stretched from a bit of frayed cuff by his wrist
All the way up, past elbow to bicep.

He looked up and around, confident now
This was the last of his world he would see,

And then bent his head down, the way he'd done
As a boy bathing, squinching his eyes shut,

Holding his breath and nose, pursing his lips,
To dunk down into the growing darkness.

Someone to discuss this would have been nice,
Was his last thought, fighting the urge to gasp.

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